Shelley Engel (USA)
1991 Buckeye Classic: 3rd AA (12-14 age group)
Shelley entered the 1991 season a virtual unknown. At the 1991 Buckeye Classic, Shelley "turned some heads" when she placed third in her age division (12- to 14-year-olds). A fifth place finish at the 1991 US Classic confirmed Shelley's place in US gymnastics and convinced Shelley that she had a legitimate shot of making the 1991 US World Championship team.
While training for the 1991 US World Championship team trials, Peters decided to give Shelley some more experience in competition. As Shelley explained to Keith McCaffety of the Flying Squirrels, "I was training for the World Team Trials and we weren't even going to do the Olympic Festival. But since it was in L.A.., Don decided to do it for fun. I was only training compulsories. I had never won anything like first place before, and I didn't think I was going to win it because I fell on bars." Even though she fell on her Jaeger series and scored only a 9.10, her overall total (38.525) outscored the other competitors.
Given her win at the 1991 Olympic Festival, Shelley became one of the favourites for a spot on the USA's 1991 World Championships team. Unfortunately, Shelley had a bad meet (she finished 11th AA). Of course, the unfavourable meet conditions did not help (trials were held in a hotel ballroom over a 5+ hour period).
Shortly after trials, in December 1991, Shelley was offered to represent the US overseas in Japan at the Chunichi and Tokyo Cups. Faced for the first time with a field of top international competitors, Shelley experienced some nerves. She faltered, placing a disappointing 16th AA at the Chunichi Cup. Unfortunately, illness and injury hampered any progress that Shelley hoped to make following this meet.
A bout of pneumonia kept Shelley bedridden for several weeks in January. Immediately after returning to the gym, Shelley began to complain of back pain. The diagnosis: two fractured vertebrae (L4 and L5) and three herniated disks (L4, L5, and S1). Shelley tried to continue against the doctors' orders, but the pain was incredible. Miraculously, despite very little training and in light of her severe injuries, Shelley managed managed to compete in the 1992 and earn the last (20th) spot on the 1992 US National team. After Nationals the pain grew worse; Shelley was diagnosed with four more fractures. She was ordered to stay away from gymnastics for at least one month. This time she followed orders...and more. After one month off, Shelley announced her retirement from gymnastics. Shelley does not regret her decision to retire, telling me "I am glad I left when I did. I got to enjoy a few years of High School."
After graduating (from San Jose State University), Shelley earned a teaching certificate and began teaching second grade at Tom Matsumoto elementary school. For a brief while Kerri Strug taught at the same school.
In addition to teaching, Shelley often helps out at West Valley Gymnastics (home gym of Amy Chow) in Campbell, California. When Shelley said farewell to competitive gymnasts, she was "very burned-out and heart broken." She never thought she'd want to return to the sport of gymnastics in any capacity, but the supportive atmosphere at West Valley changed her attitude.
Shelley was married June 29, 2003. Husband Chris is the assistant coach for Stanford University's women's gymnastics team.